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News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz, Hoda Kotb. (2013) Authorities become suspicious when a pastor loses a second wife in an accident. New. (CC) (Stereo)

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Schirmer 22, A.b. Schirmer 21, A.b. 14, Wagner 9, Kathy 8, Dr. Ross 7, Nate 6, Us 6, Mr. Schirmer 6, Jared 4, Lebanon 4, Advair 4, At&t 4, Activia 4, Joe Mustante 4, Betty Schirmer 4, Parsonage 3, Pennsylvania 3, Betty 3, Julie 3,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz, Hoda Kotb.   
   (2013) Authorities become suspicious when a pastor loses a...  

    February 8, 2013
    8:00 - 10:00pm PST  

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>> he officiated over my son's wedding. >> counseling the troubled. >> he was so good at being able to comfort other people. >> but what if the minister is suspected to be not a man of god at all. >> i believe it was all a broad. >> the minister role? >> the minister role. i think he was hiding behind that hat. >> rather a stranger in clerical robes carrying out the devil's business. >> i believe he preys on vulnerable people. >> laying on hands where he shouldn't, ministering to more than the soul. >> he would basically counsel his way right into their bedrooms. just who was the reverend arthur burton shermer? ♪ ♪ ♪ >> for his many admirers, he was the eloquent pastor making a joyful noise unto the lord with his christian quartet. a.b. to his friend, a smalltown methodist preacher in eastern pennsylvania.
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>> he was our friend, our confidant. he was just an all-around good guy. >> darryl cox sang alongside a.b. for 20 years. he'd seen the fresh-faced young pastor grow into an accomplished and devoted preacher. >> all of the things that he helped my family with over the years, he was always there. >> he watched his frerngsd the pastor, raise his music-loving family. a.b. and his wife jewel even performed together. >> they sang together many, many times. they were quite the duo. duets were a concern in the church. it seemed like the all-american couple. >> the couple's daughters, julie and amy. >> my mom and dad were people who loved each other, took care of each other and just a very close family. ♪ ♪ >> a deep sadness fell over the shermers in 1999 when a.b.'s wife of 30 years suddenly died. his daughter recalls their father being overcome with grief. >> he was very lonely. it was a hard year after.
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>> he was a sad guy, huh? >> uh-huh. very lonely. >> but life goes on and their father did in time meet someone who would become their stepmother. >> a recently divorced woman named betty who shared his love for running and the outdoors. >> they just seemed like they were best friends. >> best friends. >> it seemed like they had this closeness. >> i loved betty. >> and betty was loved by everyone, her sister tina remembers how she made strangers feel instantly comfortable. >> no matter who it was it was always hello and you got a hug. everybody got a hug. >> out of everything in her life betty was enormously proud of her son greg novak. >> what was your first impression of a.b. shermer? >> i knew he was a pastor so i had respect for him right away. i thought he was a decent guy for my mom. >> it was the reverend, his stepfather who officiated at nate's wedding a couple of years later. a.b. had embraced his new wife's big family and they him.
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they were thrilled to see their sister find such happiness after coming out of a long marriage that had soured. betty's mother jean was just delighted that her daughter had found such a fine, upstanding man. >> he was so nice, you know? we just didn't think there was anybody better than him. >> with this first chapter in his life opening up, a.b. took a new church posting as the methodist church in the eastern pennsylvania, about hours away from his old church in lebanon. nate said his mother was home sick. >> she was upset, initially being so far away from not only myself, but also the rest of her family, as well. >> but he says betty found comfort in a.b.'s congregation. the parishioners were happy to welcome her, the always fund and friendly pastor's wife. >> very lively. very full of energy and always doing something. >> samantha had attended sunday school at the church from the time she was knee high and she
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remembers how close the pastor and his wife seemed to be. >> the church members always said oh, betty and a.b. never do anything apart. they're always together. >> and that's how life passed for seven years. a.b., betty and their new expanded family of yours and mine, but death was stalking the pastor yet again. >> we came down the road and spotted a vehicle. it was a warm july night some time close to 2:00 a.m. stanley dickerson and his girlfriend were driving down a deserted country road when they noticed a pt cruiser down off the shoulder jammed against the guardrail. >> there was smoke coming out from under the hood. we slowed up next to the vehicle, but being so dark and with the windows being up we couldn't tell what was going inside. >> dickerson knocked on the driver's side to see if he could help. the man rolled down the window and it was a.b. shermer. he said i'm fine, but i don't think my wife is. i think my wife is hurt.
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>> dickerson asked the pastor to turn on the car's interior light. >> when he turned it on there was just blood everywhere in the car. >> betty was lying in the passenger seat, shivering and covered in blood and the pastor seemed to be in shock staring blankly straight ahead. >> i dead whasked what are you out here? his wife had a tooth ache and he had to bring her to the hospital and that's what he was doing out on the road that early that morning. >> dickerson called 911. they needed an ambulance fast. >> the car didn't flip over or anything, and they just a guardrail, but she seems to be hurt pretty bad. >> emts arrived within minutes and betty was taken to the regional trauma center. some son nate away from home on a business trip rushed to her bedside, totally unprepared for what he would find. >> it was shocking, huh? she was in very bad shape? >> yes. i wasn't expecting -- i wasn't expecting her to look as bad as she did. >> could you even recognize her,
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nate? >> no, i couldn't. >> that bad? >> that bad. yes. ♪ ♪ >> betty shermer was on life support and her family was being summoned. >> why had betty been so badly hurt in that car crash, but not the pastor? and there was something else that struck people as strange. at betty's bedside everyone was in tears, but according to her son not her husband, the pastor. >> no crying. no praying or anything like that. ♪
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♪ ♪ she'd always been there for them, now betty's mom and most of her eight brothers and sisters had gathered at her bedside. she looked all tubes, bandages and swollen bruising. >> we were all in shock. it was just horrible. >> betty's youngest sister tina was at her bedside in intensive care. just two weeks before they'd celebrated the birthday they
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shared. they said their good-byes after a nice lunch. >> do you remember what the last words were? >> that we have to make sure that we keep doing this every year on our birthday and -- that she loves us. joo b >> betty's only son nate got to the hospital as fast as he could bridging a photo of his mom in happier times. mother, son and the grandson she doted on. >> she looked so happy with all of us there together on the couch, and i placed that in her hand to hold. >> as you touched her hand, her fingers, were you getting anything back? >> no. as i put the picture in her hand i whispered in her ear that i loved her, and i hoped she could hear me. >> a solemn vigil began. a life ebbing away amid intensive care machinery. >> how were you comforting each other there? >> hugging, crying together and
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holding on to each other, saying some prayers. >> at the hospital, betty's husband of seven years pastor a.b. schirmer seemed to the family at times oddly distant at other, overly genial and they thought he was still in shock after all he had walked away virtually unscathed that left his wife on life support. >> no crying, no praying or anything like that. >> but a.b.'s daughter from his first marriage remembers his father was beside himself with grief. >> he was upset. he was crying. i saw him at her bedside sobbing, sobbing with one of betty's sisters. sobbing, not my bets. >> he'd been doing about 50 in the pt cruiser when the accident happened. a deer had darted out into the road and he swerved into the guardrail. betty slammed into the windshield. an arriving officer noticed the air bag his deployed, but a.b.
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told her sister betty warrant wearing her seat belt. >> what do you mean she didn't have her seat belt on? she always wears her seat belt. she would never be without a seat belt. >> she had made the fateful decision to unbuckle her belt the pastor told arriving officers. >> less than 24 hours after she'd been rushed to the hospital she died. nate's mother was gone. the woman who built sand castles with him, who taught him how to ride his bike. nate had loved his mother so much. >> i was overwhelmed with grief, crying and i was putting my head on her chest hoping to hear something, but there was nothing there. >> given the pastor's account of her relatively high-speed crash and the arriving officer's write-up of the wreck, the coroner ruled betty's death, there would be no autopsy. his mother wanted to be cremated. >> she was cremated the next day.
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very quick. >> a decision that surprised her family, but the decision was properly the spouse's. at the funeral director's a.b. selected a container for her ashes that -- >> he'd picked out an urn with the deer on it. >> a deer that caused the car accident. >> nate reminded his mother loved nature. a.b. said she always enjoyed seeing the deer. his administrative assistant of the past two years, cindy mustante helped him take care of the funeral arrangements. her daughter samantha who was 16 at the time remembers it well. >> that morning of the service i actually went over early and was helping her with, you know, the last-minute details. >> the church was packed as people rose to eulogize the beloved betty, but nothing was heard that day from the pastor
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a.b. schirmer. he sat in the pews and listened. he'd presided over so many funeral, but told friends that this was one he couldn't bear to speak at. in the receiving line, the preacher stood next to his stepson nate as the funeral goers each paused briefly to offer their condolences, and he said nate, i'd like to introduce you to my church secretary and this is cindy and he said to me. we have a little inside joke between us at the church here and he said, i go by a.b. and she is known as c.d., and then he said a, b, c, d and they kind of chuckled together about it. >> do you think that was a cozy jokey thing? i just thought that was kind of odd at the time. >> while nate wondered about the relationship between the pastor and his assistant, cindy's daughter had some questions of her own. she'd noticed her parents drifting apart in the months before the accident. >> did your mom seem different, saa manninga?
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>> yes. definitely. she seemed much more different from my dad. >> her father joe who struggled with alcohol had steadied himself on the foundation of the church. a skilled cabinetmaker he even made a desk for the pastor's office. >> was it fansy? >> very, very beautiful. it was cherry and had three crosses on the front. >> but now he was back hitting the bottle. >> so his demons were after him again, huh? >> yeah. >> was the growing distance between cindy and her husband joe the reason why she and her boss, the reverend a.b. schirmer seemed to spend so much more time together? >> she needed somebody to talk to, you know? what better than your pastor? >> but samantha would soon wonder whether the pastor's ministering was not so much godly as up close and personal. coming up -- samantha plays teenage detective and is surprised by what she finds. >> i was looking through my mom's phone and i found text
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♪ ♪ in the weeks after the death of the pastor's wife in a car wondered why her mother was spending so much time with her boss, the reverend a.b. schirmer? what in the world was going on? >> things like -- >> i love you. i can't wait to see you. you looked really nice today, and i'm sorry, that isn't normal. >> even at 16, samantha knew it wasn't right for her mother to be trading flirtatious texts with the recently widowed pastor. samantha became little miss fix-it. she decided to set things right in her family by confronting her pastor in a roundabout way. using a fake email address, she wrote one of those i know who you are and know what you're doing kind of messages. >> basically, you know, just said that someone knew about what was going on and he was
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going to -- he should stop or i was going take it to the church, and at that point i didn't want to expose anybody. i didn't want to cause an uproar. i wanted my family back. >> it didn't take the pastor long to figure out that his assistant cindy's daughter was behind the threat. samantha was summoned to a meeting in the pastor's office, her, the pastor. >> how difficult was that? >> as a child i had to say yes, ma'am, no ma'am. >> two authority figures were they saying you misinterpreted. >> yes. we're just friends, how dare you? samantha didn't believe a word, and she didn't know where to turn with the suspicions of her affair. >> is your dad is in the dark and he knew and he doesn't. >> at that point i didn't have a choice. i wasn't going tell my dad. i couldn't, at that point. i didn't have the nerve to break his heart.
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>> but she could only protect her dad for so long. when cindy and a.b. went on a day trip together, joe mustante got wind of it. >> he called me and he said what's going on? what's going on with a.b. and your mother? very, you know, very -- what do i say? at that point he's, like, he said is she in love with him? i said, i think so. >> joe waited in the driveway for them to return and confronted both his wife and a.b. samantha's mother came clean, telling her husband while she felt an emotional attachment to the pastor, the relationship had not yet turned physical. >> she said, all right. yeah. i'll end the affair, and you know, i'll try and work on things. my dad was trying his hardest to work on things and, you know, get the marriage back on track. >> but joe no longer trusted his wife of 18 years. his sister rose found out later
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that he was monitoring cindy's every move. >> he was tracking cindy's telephone messages. how long she was talking and what numbers she was talking to. >> and joe didn't like what he saw. >> even though she told him and you that she was going -- >> yeah. >> put an end to this, there she was calling him. >> yeah. joe drove his daughter out to the horse barn for a talk. >> he was having panic attacks. he said i just don't know what to do, and i was young. i didn't know what to tell him. at that point he knew that -- i think he knew that things just weren't going to work out. >> for a man who had struggled with depression all his life the world was becoming an even darker place. >> i think at that point for my dad, family was very important and my belief is that he thought my mom was going leave him. his kids were going get taken away and i think without his family he wouldn't have had any reason to live. >> the next afternoon samantha
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says her mother called her in a panic. the pastor reportedly told cindy joe had called him threatening to kill not only hipmself, but maybe samantha and her brother, too. >> she told me that my dad had gotten a gun out of his dresser and taken it to work. >> samantha says cindy instructed her not to go home that night that she may number mortal danger. the 16-year-old didn't know what to think. she had always been a daddy's girl and loved him beyond measure, but she was frightened and so she obeyed her mom and took refuge at an aunt's house. >> joe gets home that night and the kids are gone and cindy's gone. so he keeps calling cindy and begging her. you know i would never hurt you or the kids. you know that, cindy. >> we can only imagine the storms that were thrashing joe's mind on the night of october 28, 2008, alone, brooding. he drove to reeders united methodist church. he smashed a rock into the glass panel into the rear door of the
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church. then he sat down in the reverend's chair and took out his gun. >> sat right at the desk that he'd made. >> that he made. yeah. >> is it possible, rose, he was going kill the pastor? >> yes, or at least threaten him. >> but the pastor wasn't coming. cindy had reportedly phoned a.b. to warn him that joe was armed and on the move. a.b. left town. >> and so then he went to a motel. >> because he thought the angry husband was coming to look for him with a loaded gun. >> right. >> who knows how long joe mustante sat in the pastor's chair before he pulled the trigger, but they found him the next morning slumped. the bullet had gone through his skull and deflected off the upper part of a window frame. joe's sister knew something terrible had happened when her husband walked into her office that morning. >> he said joe killed himself. what? how could that happen? it was like someone just put a
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hole right through your heart and you just -- and i just couldn't believe that anything like that could happen. >> cindy broke the news to samantha and her brother. >> she said your dad decided that he didn't want to be here anymore and my brother said where did he go? um -- it didn't sink in. and then i said -- wait, what? and she said, you know, your father took his life. >> at the office in the church. >> yes. in the pastor's office. >> what a dramatic statement that is. >> yeah. definitely the biggest statement he could have made. >> samantha would learn later her father in his last hours was on the verge of submitting a formal complaint with the church that could get a.b. schirmer fired. joe mustante didn't leave behind a suicide note, but there was something he wanted people to know especially his daughter.
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>> he put his briefcase with all of the cell phone records, the contact for the bishop of the church and his cell phone, his camera under my bed. >> so kind of his case he was building against the pastor, huh? >> yeah. i definitely took it as a sign, you know? figure this out. >> rose didn't need to see inside joe's briefcase to understand what had happened. she says cindy shamelessly told her about the love triangle the night before joe's funeral. >> i watched her face, and i felt like she was a woman that was awakened in some way that had not felt that ever before in her life. she evidently loved this guy. >> rose could not believe it. >> this is a pastor. he can't step back and let the two of them work it out? he can't help himself? i mean, how could he do this? what's wrong with this guy? >> the pastor was about to face more than a crime of the heart. >> i was afraid for other parishioners. they should investigate him to
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find out if he's done this to other people. >> rose was about to take up her brother's dying wishes and set in motion an investigation that could not only get a.b. bounced from the parsonage, but could potentially put the hymn-singing preacher away for a very long time. had he broken not only the seventh commandment, the one about adultery, but the sixth commandment, as well? the one forbidding murder? coming up -- rose starts digging into the pastor's past and is stunned by what she discovers. >> there were these things that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪ cindy mustante seemed to be moving on very quickly after the suicide of her husband joe in late october of 2008. weeks before she'd packed up his belongings and taken them to the salvation army. >> she must have in her mind her boss, the reverend a.b. schirmer.
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he'd been a widower since losing his wife in the car wreck that summer. cindy's daughter samantha says her mom and a.b. picked up together just days after her dad's suicide. >> my mom went away the next weekend to go see him so it was very difficult to be hurting and have just lost your father and have your mom go off visiting her lover, i guess. >> it's healing the wounds pretty quickly. >> yeah. very. >> joe's sister rose, a one-time counselor tried not to judge her sister-in-law, but she was obviously head over heels for the pastor. still, she thought the pastor had a lot of explaining to do, basic things like why hadn't he called the police when joe mustante had threatened to kill himself and possibly even his family. >> any time you threaten somebody's life or you threaten your own you're supposed to call the authorities. >> you've been a counselor.
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>> for a pastor, he didn't even do that. >> instead, rose says he left the desperate husband to spiral out of control. rose was haunted by thoughts of her brother's final hours. >> he folded. he couldn't stand the pressure, and i felt really bad that he sat in that room by himself, you know, because i knew how much his guts were turned inside out. >> rose was determined to give her dead brother a voice. seven days after joe's suicide, she drafted a letter of complaint to the bishop. he had violated his pledge to be a man of god, she wrote and asked that the reverend be held accountable for negligence. >> it was never a witch hunt or we're out to get you. my aunt simply wanted it investigated. you know, there's something fishy when a pastor of a church has an affair with one of the parishioners, there's something wrong. >> a week later a.b. was summoned for a meeting with the bishop.
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rose says he didn't even try to defend himself, he resigned. >> he hung his head and was a broken man when he left her office. >> he had to surrender his license and he had to get out of the parsonage and he wasn't supposed to talk to any of the parishioners and he wasn't supposed to make contact with them or anything. he was just supposed to leave and that was it. joo but there was one church goer he couldn't stay away from, samantha's mother. months after withdrawing from the pulpit, the one-time reverend schirmer was dropping by cindy's house for dinner. >> she said, oh, a.b.'s going come over for dinner. i think i have to work that night. >> you didn't like schirmer? >> i had a lot of feelings. i felt like my family was invaded. >> before samantha knew it, dinners were turning into overnight stays. >> he started bringing overnight bags and the overnight bags didn't leave, you know? that's when panic really set in for me.
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>> samantha's aunt rose would later view a.b. with disgust for spending more and more time with her dead brother's family, seemingly without a thought about the man who had committed suicide at his desk. >> i think he has no conscience, you know? he doesn't care about anything but his own self. >> but what a.b. didn't know is that rose hadn't just ratted him out to the church. a few days after she'd mailed that letter to the bishop she'd made a call to the police. she had a hunch, she told investigators, not about her brother joe's suicide, but about that car accident that killed the pastor's wife betty. >> people had filed that away, hadn't they? >> yeah. >> the reverend lost his wife in a car wreck. >> yeah. >> rose says it was cindy who had originally told her about the accident that killed betty, the pastor's wife. >> he was taking her to the hospital earlier in the morning and a deer ran out and he swerved and i said -- did the deer hit the car? and she said, no. i said oh. the story of the car accident
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that killed betty struck her as odd and the more she uncovered, the more suspicious she became. >> there was these things that were really disturbing and make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. >> one of the cops to receive rose's call was detective james wagner of the pocono township police department who was assigned to investigate. >> i immediately thought that i needed to look at this to see if there were any signs of foul play. >> the patrolman's report seemed cut and dry. betty had died after hitting her head in the car wreck, but the key witness had been betty's husband, reverend a.b. shifrm, the man the detective was told to take a look at. at the hospital the pastor had given a vivid account of the crash to the deputy corn oner. >> that she went flying because she was an unrestrained passenger. >> anyone who drives those roads can see it as a plausible story. a deer, and you lose it and a god awful thing happens.
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>> for a coroner who is located 45 minutes away thatoesn't know anything about the accident scene itself that would seem normal. >> and he's taking down the account of the methodist minister. >> that's correct. >> wagner kept digging and discovered in the department's archives a cache of photos from the crash site. when he punched them up on his computer the detective immediately noticed they didn't match the story told by the pastor. the car was only minimally banged up. the air bags hadn't even deployed. it turned out the officer who had written up the original accident report got that important detail wrong and the detective wondered why he saw no tire marks on the road. >> there were no signs or evidence of evasive maneuvers at all. >> should have been and there weren't. >> there were not. >> to his eyes there was zero evidence indicating a high-speed collision had ever occurred and yet betty's injury his been simply horrific.
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she suffered multiple skull fractures and it just didn't fit for the detective. >> there was no way a conscious person would have sustained the head trauma that she did? >> did you say this thing stinks? >> yes, it did. >> coming up, investigators noticed something else odd about the quarters in the change holder. >> they didn't go flying out all over the place. >> so they were just where they'd been. >> correct. >> when "dateline" continues. [ male announcer ] if you're at the corner of "got my medicare drug card" and "gotta get savings," bring in your prescriptions to walgreens.
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not ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ it was hard to believe that this modest church in the poconos had become the setting detective james wagner was delving into the schirmer's late-night car accident wondering why pictures of the supposedly high-speed crash didn't seem to match the account of the driver, reverend a.b. schirmer whose wife betty had he tracked down the passerby who called 911 the night of the
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accident to see if he had any further information that might help explain the discrepancies. >> just by looking at the car from when we walked up on it there didn't seem to be any real damage. >> the good samaritan motorist impressions confirmed what the detective had had concluded from the photos. betty's injuries seemed way out of proportion from the minor fender bender she'd experienced. >> she was shivering and she wasn't really conscious. even at the time he remembered thinking it strange that the pass everyoninger was staring out the windshield, making no effort to help his wife. >> he made no attempt to get out of the car or really to even speak to her or comfort her which isn't something you'd expect from somebody who's with their wife who is potentially dying. >> and even more unusual, detective wagner realize the the pastor relied on the motorist to call for help when he could have dialed 911 himself. >> mr. schirmer had a functional
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cell phone and never made a 911 call. >> wagner kept looking at the photos and the stains. >> i got to a photograph at the blood on the seat and i immediately noticed this blood doesn't make sense. i had one of those moments where it's, oh, my god. this is it. >> betty's car seat was spattered with blood, but the detective thought it shouldn't have been. if she was initially injured while sitting in the passenger seat how did it get under her? >> if betty did sustain a bleeding wound from that particular crash, she would have been bleeding on herself. there would be a void from her body, her legs and her butt in that seat. >> the only logical way to explain the blood on the passenger seat, the detective thought, was if betty had been injured and bleeding before she got into the car. >> what i saw is evidence that told me immediately that she was bleeding prior to that crash. >> that had nothing to do with the deer and slamming into the windshield. >> absolutely not.
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>> could a.b. have done something so monstrous as to stage a car accident as a cover-up for murder? it was shocking to contemplate. as the investigation was wrapping up, members of betty's family were wrestling with the past, reliving betty's final days. things just weren't adding up. betty's son nate was bothered by one of the last phone calls he had with his mother. >> i could tell there was something wrong and i just couldn't put my finger on it. >> when he sifted through a box of mementos his stepfather had given her, he found a card weeks before she died, tucked inside it was a post-it note. for all of the pain i have caused you, i am sorry. i hope some day you will be free to soar again and truly free and the word was underlined. >> some sort of an apology. what's going on? how do you read this? >> obviously there was something going on behind the scenes or behind closed doors that no one else was aware of.
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>> betty's family had been taken aback by what they saw as a.b.'s lack of emotion at the hospital. >> did you see any tears in him that night ever? >> no. >> they thought at times he'd acted more like a party host than a grieving husband. >> just out of the blue, just like this he goes, billy, come on in and see your sister like they just had a newborn baby or something. >> two months after the accident tina took a.b. out to lunch she was surprised to find her newly widowed brother-in-law so happy. >> the whole time lunch was going on he was texting. he said c.d., my name's a.b. and having a good time with that. >> did you wonder who this c.d. woman was? >> yeah. it was -- he just was having too much fun. >> two other things stood out for betty's family. things that seemed out of character for their sister. a.b.'s story about betty not wearing her seat belt just
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didn't ring true. >> my mother would say to me seat belts save lives. if i wasn't wearing a seat belt she would always make sure she would put it on before i'd go. >> did it make sense to you that she wasn't buckled up? >> that wasn't like my mom. >> and then a.b.'s decision to have betty cremated? >> did that surprise you? >> it did. my mother chose to be cremated. my sister bets did not agree with it. >> back in the poconos, the state police had been pulled in to help detective wagner with the case. the team took a second look at the pt cruiser's speed that night. the pastor had told the responding officer he was traveling between 50 and 55 miles per hour when the crash occurred. but in one of the accident photos investigators noticed something odd. when they looked at the change holder they saw that almost all of the quarters remained neatly in place. >> the impact was so minor that they didn't go flying out all over the place. >> they were just where they'd been.
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>> correct. >> an expert who crash reconstruction who looked at the case concluded that the pt cruiser's speed at the point of impact was half of what schirmer had claimed. >> at the time he collided with that guardrail it was less than 25 miles an hour. >> this was the low-speed accident. >> correct. >> investigators now believe the pastor had staged the accident to cover up the killing of his wife. so five months after betty's death, one set of investigators asked the pastor to come down to the state police barracks for a talk, while a separate team of officers and crime scene techs headed for the parsonage to have a look around at the place where a.b. had lived with betty. >> you wanted to hear what he had to say for sure, but as important was putting him under a roof and knowing where he was. >> correct. we didn't want to compromise by him knowing we were there and searching the parsonage. the cops were about to blow the case wide open. >> who do you think he is? >> a very sick, sick man?
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>> dunk heo you think he's a ki? >> i do. i do. turns out there's one person who doesn't think the pastor is a killer, and his opinion may count for a lot. >> forensic pathologist said betty's injuries are what he would expect to see in a mort vehicle collision. coming up sunday on "dateline," while they were sleeping their wedding was perfect. >> you wait for all your life. you feel like a princess. their marriage, too. >> they completed each other. >> until it ended with a gun shot in the master bedroom. >> i could see him. >> hard to get that one out of your head, isn't it? >> yeah. >> who would want him dead and why did she escape without a scratch? was this princess bride now a prime suspect? >> the person that you love is dead and then you're being looked at for it. >> then came the twist. we weren't really morning people. we're vampires after all.
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♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ a.b. schirmer, he was the
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hymn-sing pastor who preached from the pulpit about good and evil. now investigators wondered if he was the hypocrite of all hypocrites. >> it's hard to believe that somebody in that position would commit violent crimes such as this. >> in december 2008, about a month after investigators began reviewing betty's death they asked the husband a.b. schirmer to meet with them at the state police barracks. he thought he was going to answer questions about the suicide in his church office just two months before. investigators had other ideas. >> there are two operations going on. you're bringing schirmer in for a sitdown. >> correct. meanwhile you'll go in a crime tech kind of way to look at the pars parsonage. >> while he was in an interrogation room, technicians swept into reeders united methodist church. video cameras rolling, and they were looking for evidence that
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betty had been attacked before she got into the car. they were concerned he could still get access to the parson age. they cased the kitchen, the bedrooms and scoured every itch of the parson age basement and found nothing incriminating, but what they discovered in the garage, they say, was jaw-dropping. >> i walked in the back door of that garage. it was unlocked and i immediately noticed it had blood drops on the post right above the stairwell and i was shocked. i could not believe it. >> and not just one or two blood drops. wagner could see clusters of blood, visible to the naked eye and it looked to him as though someone had been trying to clean it up. >> i could see evidence of washed blood. >> how did it show itself? >> it looked diluted. it looked, you know, faded from water or clean up efforts. >> investigators sprayed the garage with luminol, a chemical that glows when it interacts with blood. they said a ghostly trail of blood appeared leading from the back door to where the car would
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have been parked. detective wagner could also see the crime happening in front of him. >> you could see betty already injured being brought in through that garage door. >> being brought in that garage door and physically loaded and put into that passenger seat. >> just because there was blood on the garage floor didn't mean it was necessarily betty's. state trooper phil barleta was at the scene. >> now you have to find out whose blood it is. it was documented and collected for dna testing. >> and it comes back from the lab as -- >> betty schirmer's. it's all her blood. >> even before they had the lab confirmation the investigators at the parsonage called the troopers interviewing schirmer, to tell them. >> as he's sitting across from detectives you phone in saying there's blood out here. >> he denies that betty ever
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bled anywhere in the parsonage, but when confronted about this blood in the garage he comes up with a story about how she cut herself moving wood. >> schirmer told police betty had helped him move a pile of firewood out of the garage. he said the stack collapsed and they both scraped themselves, betty so badly that she needed a bandage and sure enough, the investigators did, in fact, find a pile of wood outside on church grounds. >> forensic troopers are meticulously going through it looking for potential blood evidence. what they find at the bottom of the pile is the stack of newspapers and the newspapers were dated september 2008. >> so help me with that. why is that newspaper important? >> betty died july 15, 2008 and it's impossible for betty to have helped him move this firewood. betty was dead at the time the wood was deposited in that location. >> investigators believed they
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had caught the pastor in an outright lie. there was one more incriminating statement a.b. made during the interrogation according to the detective, something so small schirmer possibly didn't even notice it. >> he subconsciously threw out the statement of putting her in the car. he used that term, i put her in the car which is what i believe he did. he put her bleeding body into that car. >> investigators told schirmer he was free to go. they were done with him for now. after seven hours of interrogation, the by then former pastor was apparently rattled. he tried to get betty sister's tina and sand owe the phone to alert them that the police would be calling. >> the call to sandy went to voicemail. >> this is a.b. please give me a call. it's very important. it's very important that you call me, please. thank you. bye. >> we called him back and we said a.b., you can't leave a message like this, for heaven's
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sakes. you've got to meet us. >> they met with a.b. the same day. >> did you ask him then, did you kill our sister. >> he asked if he wanted coffee and anything and he said sandy, i did not kill your sister. >> detective wagner called betty's sister the day after the interrogation and was surprised to find out a.b. had already contacted them. >> i just thought that was interesting that he was already playing that manipulation game and beating us to the punch, so to speak. >> a.b. thought the detective was certainly acting as though he had something to hide, as convinced that a.b. had staged the car accident to cover up the real cause of betty's death there were still huge holes in their case. >> now you have a theory that betty was killed here on the grounds of the church. did you have a weapon? did you know where? >> we did not. i had no idea where it took place or what instrument may
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have been utilized to cause those injuries. >> and there was a huge setback when investigators brought betty's hospital records to a medical examiner for review. >> the forensic pathologist said betty's injuries were what he would expect to see in a motorcycle collision. >> a motorcycle accident just as the pastor said. an investigative stumbling block, but there was another lead for the detective still to explore and to do that they'd have to go back in time, back to another woman in another parsonage, another wife of a.b. schirmer. it was eerie what they would find. >> turns out the pastor's first wife also died in a suspicious accident. >> there were rumors, all kinds of rumors about her death. >> when "dateline" continues. but sometimes...depression still dragged me down. i'd been feeling stuck for a long time. so my doctor added abilify to my antidepressant. she said some people had symptom improvement as early as 1 to 2 weeks.
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♪ ♪ ♪ back to our story now, no one likes to think a pastor, a man of god might be a murderer, but this pastor had a past that included a least one affair and a wife who died suspiciously. detectives didn't just think he might be a killer. they were convinced of it. here's dennis murphy. ♪ >> investigators were digging into a.b. schirmer's past looking for the detail to help them build a murder case against the disgraced pastor. of course, betty warrant the only wife a.b. had lost. his first wife of 30 years, jewel, had also died. >> there were rumors, all kinds of rumors about her death. >> the pastor had told some of betty's family that his first wife had died after an illness.
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>> he told me she had passed away from cancer. >> his first wife died of cancer? >> yes. >> other family members heard it differently. they believed jewel had died after tumbling down a flight of basement stairs. >> i didn't know what had happened down there, and i needed to find out whether jewel's death was suspicious in any way. >> kathy knew the story better than most. a good friend of jewel's, she was in the pews for most of the a.b.'s tenure at the bethany united methodist church in lebanon, pennsylvania. >> how did the congregation receive him? >> great. great. they loved him and he was reinstated over and over again. >> and a.b. and jewel's daughters remember their parents being devoted not only to the church, but to each other. >> did you see affections, holding hands. >> yes. >> and soft voice? caressing? >> yes. >> and their dad adored them.
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julie and amy remember he was the one he'd get them to school. >> he didn't do it for you. he'd touch me and run. >> and run. >> yet, beyond their devoted dad, maybe there was a side to a.b. that his daughters and even most of the church members didn't see. kathy's husband and a.b. were bowling buddies. >> he often would come home and say what a horrible temper he had. >> really? >> the reverend a.b. schirmer. >> he would kick the aisle where the balls would come back if he bowled badly. >> it wasn't just the supposed flashes of temper that caught the eyes of a.b.'s buddies. kathy says his constant flirting with women slowed the game down. >> when it was his turn to bowl he wasn't there and they'd have to wait around and that would make the guys upset because it would make them later to go home. >> so the men had a different perspective on a.b. >> yes. my father, too, was there, and he would say things are fishy. something doesn't feel right. >> referring to what as you look
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back? >> with a.b. and they'd see him with more than one woman there, that was fishy. >> and even at church, kathy noticed a.b. seemed overly attentive to female members of the congregation. in the months leading up to jewel's death, he said there was one woman in particular that parishioners were whispering about. >> there was one female in the church that you would see him with in the corner talking while jewel was taking care of everything else in the church. >> meanwhile, as kathy saw it, her best friend jewel was frozen out of the pastor's affection. >> i never saw anything affectionate from him to jewel. i don't think i ever saw them kiss. he never hugged her. i don't know if i ever saw him hold her hand, actually. >> one disappointment towered over the others. for months, kathy says, jewel had been looking forward to a big 30th wedding anniversary
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treat, a trip to new york city to see "the phantom of the opera." she'd bought tickets to surprise a.b., but when the time came he announced he wasn't going. a.b. had a wedding to officiate. >> did that break her heart a little bit when he said i'm not going. >> pretty much. i can kick and scream all i want and he's not going to care and he's not going to come so will you come with me? sure, i will. >> during jewel's favorite song in the broadway show she remembers jewel calling a.b. so he could listen, but she couldn't reach him. >> she called to tell him this is the song and i wanted you to be her. he didn't answer. it was later in the evening and she asked me, do you think that if he did have a wedding was invited to the dinner afterwards that he would be home by now? and i just agreed with her, yes.
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i would think he would be. was the mouse playing while the cat was away? kathy had her suspicions. >> did you ever talk to jewel about what you thought you were starting to think yourself were going on with a.b.? >> i did not. i didn't want to hurt her. >> but the whole issue of a.b.'s suspected cheating soon became moot. not long after that trip to new york city jewel was found sprawled at the bottom of the basement steps in the parsonage, a vacuum cleaner cord wrapped around her leg. a.b. told the emts he discovered her when he came back from running. jewel was taken to the e.r. with multiple fractures to her skull. kathy immediately went to the hospital. >> how did she look? >> terrible. her head was huge, and it was all wrapped up with gauze. you really couldn't have known it was her. >> her daughters kept vigil at their mother's bedside. >> it was horrific. it was terribly shocking. >> i guess you knew it wasn't
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going to be a good outcome. >> yeah. we pretty much got that feeling. i still prayed for miracles, but yeah, i had that feeling. >> there would be no miraculous recovery for the wife and mother. jewel's injuries were insurmountable. julie remembers their father falling apart as the decision was made to turn off the life support machines. >> he and i walked outside and i remember it was a sunny day and he said it was a beautiful day, but it was not a beautiful day, and he wanted his wife back. for some reason that just really sticks out in my mind because i think the way -- it was the way it was said. he was just so sad. ♪ ♪ >> jewel was buried and mourned by the congregation. sundays at the church were never quite the same for kathy without jewel behind the organ. she and her sister told a.b. a few weeks on how much they missed her.
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>> we talked about how sad it is that she's not there and we miss all the music and everything that she did, and his statement to us was well, you're just going to have to get over it. >> and the reverend apparently took his own advice. two years later he decided it was time to move on. a new chapter of his life with a new parish in the poconos and a new wife, betty. kathy met her just one time. >> she was jogging with him and i was thinking, wow! maybe she's good for him because jewel didn't like to jog, and he found someone that has his likes, but as i walked away i thought, wow! already? >> yet the rumors about a.b.'s first marriage, the freak fall down the stairs didn't mean much to detective wagner until he called his counterparts down in lebanon with a question. had anyone there ever inquired about jewel schirmer's death? >> what i found out was very
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shocking. they told us that the case was left still pending and undetermined with no outcome. >> and the closer he looked, the more he started to see some chilling parallels with betty's death. >> what do you think you've got here? this was very surprising for a minister. >> what would the story of the autopsy reveal about how jewel schirmer died? coming up -- >> they didn't rule it an accident. they didn't rule it homicide. they ruled it as we don't know. >> but perhaps there was one person who did know. has asked real women to try e our go sleeveless deodorant for five days. ♪ everybody got two t-shirts as well, a short sleeved and a sleeveless one. which would they wear on day five? ♪ sleeveless. definitely sleeveless. ♪ what? i just like the t-shirt. [ female announcer ] for visibly softer, smoother underarms, sleeveless ready in just five days. dove go sleeveless deodorant.
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at&t. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ the reverend schirmer's second wife betty had succumbed
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to multiple head injuries in 2008, and investigators were curious to learn that so had his first wife jewel in 1999. >> you have a pattern of behavior. >> yes. >> of wives who turn up suspiciously dead. >> yes. >> assistant district attorney mike mancuso found the old schirmer case troubling. something about the story just didn't add up. >> it's weird that this woman jewel according to her son vacuumed these steps twice a week, every week for 14 years. one step at a time, nice and slow, and then she not only fall, but suffer 14 different impacts to the head on her way down. >> according to the authorities two hours away in lebanon, pennsylvania, where jewel died an autopsy had been performed a decade before after she was said to have tumbled down a set of basement stairs. the forensic pathologist was dr. wayne ross. >> you did the original autopsy. >> i did.
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>> what was your opinion of what happened to her? >> traumatic brain injury. >> dr. ross' report told the prosecutor that back then there had been doubts that jewel's injuries, and massive trauma to the head were consistent with the story of a fall. jewel's manner of death had been listed as undetermined. >> they didn't rule it an accident. they didn't rule it homicide. they ruled it as we don't know. >> in fact, the pathologist had been so concerned about his findings that he had suggested authorities take a closer look, but that never happened. a local coroner mistakenly, as it turned out told police that jewel had fallen down the stairs after suffering a heart attack. >> it was a heart attack. they decide to close the investigation. >> a decade later the old case was suddenly very relevant and later in the investigation, a prosecutor would make an interesting move. he'd ask dr. ross, the pathologist who performed jewel's autopsy to analyze both jewel and betty schirmer's records. there wasn't much for dr. ross
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to work with, unlike jewel, betty hadn't been autopsies, but cat scan images of her brain had been taken to the hospital. the pathologist would be definitive in his conclusions. >> the injuries noted to betty schirmer are wholly inconsistent with the slow-speed traffic accident which no air bags deploy and which mr. schirmer had no injuries at all. >> dr. ross said there were two wounds on the right side of betty's head that could not have been caused in that car accident. an opinion that became even stronger when he examined these computerized 3d models of betty's skull. >> these two images here are huge. >> dr. ross was convinced betty had been murdered and brutally so. >> she's got fractures on the right side of her skull and directly underneath that she's got swelling and bleeding in her brain and that's a lot of force going through there. >> what kind of murder weapon would the killer have used? dr. ross had an idea. it was my opinion that she'd
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been struck multiple times with a long cylindrical object with a crowbar or something and he was swinging for the fences essentially and hit her hard at least twice in this area and caused that damage. >> and the real stunner, for the pathologist it was eerily reminiscent of the other i remember schirmer case he'd seen so long ago. >> there are two lacerations that look exactly like jewel schirmer. >> dr. ross compared the two wives' injuries side by side. >> when you compare the two of them the similarities are striking. the similarities are to the right side of the head on both jewel and betty in terms of the lacerations. >> it's all happening right here. in both women? >> right side of the head, both women. >> in death, the dr. thought, they could have been twins. investigators also found what they believe were other similarities between the two cases.
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signs, they thought, of a clean up. scrubbed blood stains in the garage in the poconos and the story of scrubbed blood stains at the foot of the basement stairs in jewel's case. back in 1999, detectives learned, jewel's brother had been so alarmed by the sight of his sister at the icu that he went over to the parsonage to see just what happened. he thought the blood had been cleaned up. >> he confronts schirmer, what happened to all of the blood? >> schirmer says the emts stayed behind and cleaned it up and he said that's bull. i ran ambulance. i know that that didn't happen. and schirmer doesn't respond. >> investigators thought the other big similarity in the two deaths were the rumors in both about a.b.'s behavior with other women. >> your opinion is that jewel, the wife with was aware of his infidelities. >> painfully aware. >> and the prosecutor thought divorce could have been a problem for the pastor. >> i think it would have been maybe a stain on his reputation.
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you know, and he was very conscious of how he appeared to others because remember, he's up on high. he's counseling you. he's everybody's person that is looked up to so he certainly wouldn't have wanted that. >> when detectives looked at the pastor's computer, they saw that he had a secret life. was it part of a motive for murder? a reason to get rid of not one, but two wives? coming up -- a strange past time for a pastor. >> he was addicted to pornography, obsessed with sex. obsessed with it. >> when "dateline" continues. i'm so happy to be marrying your mom.
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he stood before his congregation as a man of the cloth and betty's devoted husband, but behind closed parsonage doors authorities keeping some dark and tawdry secrets. >> for more than a year, a team of investigators had been working to build a case against the former pastor a.b. schirmer. darryl cox was still singing with the reverend out on the gospel circuit and said his friend didn't understand why his friend was being targeted by investigators. >> a.b. told me they're investigating betty's death. he told me he didn't know why. they won't find anything. there's nothing to find. >> investigators thought they were finding plenty. by now they were trying to connect the dots between the death of his second wife betty and his first wife jewel and zeroing in on a motive for murder after they examined the hard drive on the reverend's computer. >> obsessed with sex. obsessed with it.
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thousands of porn sites. >> more than playmate nudie pictures. >> ran the gamut of other perverse behavior. >> seasoned investigator trooper phil barleto says the sheer volume of a.b.'s searches was telling. >> he was addicted to pornography as evident by his computers. addicted to the chase of sexuality. >> and as they dug deeper, they found emails indicating to them that a.b.'s sexual targets were not virtual, but sometimes very real female church members. kathy seacrest would tell investigators about a.b.'s suspected affairs during his first marriage to jewel and detective wagner says it was proof a.b. had run around on betty, too. >> he was counseling women who were very vulnerable for many different reasons, maybe troubled marriage, alcohol abuse, something of that nature, and he would basically counsel
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his way right into their bedrooms. >> investigator wendy says she could see the trail of women extending back for decades. >> there was never a period in this man's life where he's not got some woman on the hook. we looked back into the '70s and into the '80s and it's a constant. you can see the pattern repeating itself over and over again. >> but even if the pastor was a chronic philanderer as investigators thought, why was that a reason for killing his wives? it seems to them he'd been cheating on them for years, why resort to murder? investigators speculated something must have changed. whatever it was there was a sense betty was a troubled woman just before the car accident. >> a month or two before her death there was a noticeable lack of outgoingness with the church that they took note of. >> and remember this post-it note the pastor had attached to betty's last birthday card, the one her son nate had come upon as he looked through a box of keepsakes, the one that said he
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was sorry for all of the pain he'd caused her, but soon she could soar free. >> how do you read that? >> it could only read in the context that there was an understanding that the marriage was at an end. that was dateable to her last birthday which was the end of june 2008 and she was ashes by july 17th. ♪ ♪ >> but still they had to wonder if they believed the pastor had staged a car crash on a dark, rural road and by now they did, then why? maybe, they theorize, the timing had to do with cindy. was betty on to her husband's interest to his assistant? what if he was in the path of an oncoming divorce? >> he's wrapped up in the pulpit. he's a man of the cloth and he doesn't want to jeopardize it and the break up of a marriage, a divorce, anything nasty, affairwise, he didn't want to tolerate that.
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>> and the prosecutor thought cindy's affects for the pastor were becoming dangerously apparent. >> she was infatuated with the reverend. just mentioning his name, a big smile would come across her face. >> and two days after betty's car accident in the summer of 2008 cindy sent her condolences to the pastor signing her email, love you, the mushy cd. a.b., replied love you, too. prosecutor mancuso was also struck by this photo of schirmer he says was taken the weekend of betty's memorial service. >> you don't see a man who is distraught and devastated, lost and alone. he's smiling. there's one photo in particular where he was cooking up a load of scrabble and he has a self-assured look on his face, relaxed and at ease. >> a few months later things would get complicated on that night when cindy's husband joe shot himself heart broken that his wife was involved with the
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reverend. his swies ied allowed them to finally be free together. by going through the records, she tracked the steamy relationship following joe's death. >> it seemed to me too sudden. i don't understand how you -- where was your grief? where was your grieving time? >> she said their credit card receipts revealed rendezvouses in local hotels. >> they're having an intimate relationship. we also see there are hotel stays, overnight hotel stays and things like that. >> there were also smolderring emails to each other. cindy wrote, unimaginable is the only word that even comes close to describing last night. i have occupied this body for 40 something years and trust me, this is not normal for me. and a.b. wrote, am very hungry for you. your body is fantastic. schirmer even confided in cindy how happy he was now with her. he said his relationship with betty had been missing something. for the last two years we did
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not have sex, he wrote. >> betty is menopausal, not interested in sex. they were not intimate. >> he was tired of her. >> she was no good anymore. >> so good-bye betty, hello, cynthia. >> that would be the timing, yes. >> and it was not only hello sind, but hello samantha and her little brother. the children came, too. more than a year after joe's suicide, samantha remembers the pastor being there almost all of the time. >> what was he like around the house? >> very moody. very -- kept to himself. didn't want to, you know, really be bothered with my brother or i. >> rose, samantha's aunt watching from afar was distressed by the thought of the pastor living with her dead brother's wife and children. >> he has my brother's house and he can be with his son and he can sleep in his bed. the decisions he's making and his behaviors don't add up because you just don't do that. >> but the new couple was making big plans.
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later that sumner august 2010 cindy and a.b. announced their engagement. daughter samantha was terrified. she called the police frantic that her mother would become the third late mrs. a.b. schirmer. investigators agreed and decided they couldn't wait any longer to arrest the former pastor. with what they saw as another potential woman at risk, they decided to make their move. on september 13, 2010, deathive wagner knocked on the front door of cindy's house. >> cindy's son came to the door and i asked him where mr. schirmer was and he said he was in the kitchen and as i started to approach into the kitchen area he went out the back door and ran right into trooper maynard. >> he was trying to make a getaway, huh? >> it appears so. a.b. schirmer did not resist. he was cuffed and read his rights. charged with the murder of his second wife betty. the deepest secrets of reverend
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schirmer were about to be revealed to all. he would stand trial in a town that would leave a small pennsylvania town abuzz with its ungodly charges. coming up, prosecutors seemed to have a strong case, but don't underestimate the defense. >> he did a lot of things that were inappropriate in the case. it doesn't make him a murderer. ♪
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barrow island has got rare kangaroos. ♪ chevron has been developing energy here for decades. we need to protect their environment. we have a strict quarantine system to protect the integrity of the environment. forty years on, it's still a class-a nature reserve. it's our job to look after them. ...it's my job to look after it. ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ the prosecutor had no doubt the pastor a.b. schirmer was a dangerous character. type of guy who will do whatever he wants to do, and he has. he pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. >> and sitting behind him in the courtroom would be his daughters. they had no doubt that their dad was innocent. >> you're four square behind your dad. people shouldn't miss that, is that right? >> that is correct. >> you never had a whisper of a doubt? >> no. >> it had been more than four years since amy and julie's stepmom betty schirmer had been found bleeding and unconscious in their dad's car. now it was time for a jury to hear the evidence against a.b.
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schirmer and decide whether he was a murderer. a lot of the prosecutor's case was circumstantial. there was no eyewitness, no confession to the crime, but even though the case had its challenges the prosecutor had won a key victory before the trial had even started. the former pastor wasn't on trial for jewel's death, but a judge ruled that the prosecutor could still tell the jury about it and point out the similarities between how she and betty died. >> blunt force trauma to the head, brain damage, brain dead, injury patterns remarkably similar. it was from the same type of object, a long, cylindrical object. >> this was a deck of cards turned over and played out. >> right. >> while the prosecutor would describe to the jury the crushing blows that he believed killed both wives, this trial would focus mostly on betty. there would be a separate trial for jewel later. all in all, it was tough testimony for betty's family to listen to without going to pieces. >> just couldn't stop crying. how -- how long did she sit and
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suffer in pain? >> the prosecutor asked the jurors to use their common sense about a.b.'s version of events. he played them these computer animations of the car crash as reconstructed by experts. remember, a.b. had told police he'd been traveling at around 50 miles an hour when the accident happened. >> at 35 miles an hour the car would completely travel right through the guardrail. >> sail through the guardrail. >> correct. >> the prosecutor said the accident reconstruction proved the passenger was driving slowly when the car struck the guardrail. too slowly for betty to have been fatally injured, more proof, he argued that the so-called accident had been staged by the passenger who had attacked his wife somewhere else. a bogus wreck would also explain his strange behavior in the car. no call to 911. no attempt to aid his injured wife and there was his inappropriate behavior at the hospital, the prosecutor said, like this remark to the nurse.
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>> the defendant says what a pretty woman bets was and then he makes the bizarre statement, and she hadda i nice ass, too. >> the prosecutor declared that the reverend met anyone's test of a sinner on a frequent basis. his computer was weighed down with searches for porn according to a prosecution witness. one person testified she'd had an ongoing affair of many years with him. >> it was just a shock to me. one of them he actually was still sleeping with two weeks after he murdered my sister. >> the womanwomanizing, the emol entanglement with his assistant and it all added up to a crumbling marriage and a.b. respond the only way he knew how. >> there's an underlying violence within him that's well mask that comes out. >> violence that had been mapped out in blood on the floor of the parsonage garage according to the prosecutor. he had a theory about how the crime occurred.
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>> she was beaten in the house and beaten to the point of brain death, unconsciousness. he dresses her. he carries her and she's only about a hundred pounds and out the back door, out of the back door of the garage. >> what happened next, the prosecutor says became increasingly clear when investigators pulled the pt cruiser, the type of car he had. they parked the car in place and marked pink dots where blood was found and later investigators created this diagram. it has a trail of blood to the car's passenger side. >> he walks her around the passenger side, sets her down, . puts her in the sxar he backs out and he backs out and concocts his little crash. >> after seven days of testimony it was finally the pastor's defense attorney's turn to present his case.
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>> he's innocent. you think he didn't do it. >> he told him sometimes accidents just happen and some of the prosecution's forensic analysis wasn't based on sound science. it didn't even match the prosecution's version of events. >> if there was so much bleeding that betty schirmer was bludgeoned in this car, there should have been blood sprayed across the windshield. >> betty'sead injuries were inconsistent with something like a crowbar and that betty had suffered internal injuries unique to a car wreck. >> there's this deep injury to the right lung that can only be caused in a car accident. this is from a chest, the right side of the chest hitting a dashboard. there is no explanation for that by the commonwealth. >> as for the blood on betty's passenger seat, the defense maintains it wasn't blood from a beating before she got in the car as the prosecution charged. >> when you hear the testimony
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from the emts who extricated betty, was there a point in time when her head was over the seat and active bleeding. >> they a sailed the pros kugz's defense. the if he had cleaned up, the pastor would have done a much better job upon. would he really had left blood drops in the garage for the world to see. >> you could have cleaned these up if you wanted to clean these up. they weren't cleaned up. >> what's more, the prosecution's expert his exaggerated the amount of blood found on the garage floor. >> they took luminol photos that were out of focus. >> misrepresented what they had. >> the defense attorney argued they'd been too quick to discount the explanation about betty getting a scratch from the woodpile. it didn't matter that the woodpile investigated was sitting on a pile after betty's death. they were simply looking in the wrong stack of wood.
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>> mr. schirmer told them to look in the wood line. if you look at the background of his own photoey you can see the woodpile in the tree line. >> a.b.'s own daughters told the jury how it was their father's work as a reverend that accounted for his demeanor will that day. >> he'd been a pastor to many people who had gone through tragedy. he is so good at understanding how to comfort other people. >> they said their father was overcome. >> we walked with him through the grief. >> we walked with him through it. we saw him. >> and remember that photo of a.b. smiling while he cooked scramble just after days was gone, it was evidence, the lawyers argued after betty's death. >> that was a snapshot. that's not a total picture of the whole time. it's taken out of context. >> in fact, betty and a.b.'s marriage was strong, argued the
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defense. >> the relationship seemed good and we were able to establish that there wasn't a problem. >> there were no allegations of violence in that marriage. >> no. >> but remember that post-it note that a.b. had written to betty,a apologizing for pain he'd caused her and hoping she could soon soar free. while the prosecutors said the post-it showed the marriage was on the brink, and the defense said they were the words of a caring husband, one that knew that his job prevented her from seeing her family. >> a.b.'s description of why he put that in there was simply i wanted to express to her that i had caused her hardship and pain by having this job in reeders. you are so far away from your children, your grandchildren. >> bottom line argued the defense attorney, a.b. loved his wife and had no reason to want her dead. >> i argue that there was no motive. made no sense. >> we're talking about a ton of money from insurance? >> there's no life insurance.
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>> and the only thing a.b. was guilty of, his lawyers said were some all too human mistakes, but that in his opinion, was not a motive for murder. >> he did a lot of things that weren't appropriate in the case, it doesn't make him a murderer. >> he'll do the walk of shame, but it doesn't make him a killer. >> perhaps the best person to convince the jury of that, was a.b. schirmer himself. he did what defendants don't do in criminal cases is took chair in his own defense. he had the last opportunity he'd had to preach. he admitted to being a sirn, having an affair, but he denied killing his wife. his daughters watched. >> how do you think he told his story? >> i think he did well. he was sincere. >> he was truthful. >> betty's son, nate novak was less convinced. >> i was full of anger. i -- i knew he wasn't telling the truth. >> truth, the finding of facts.
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that was the jury's job. the time was at hand to see what evolved. coming up, the verdict, but first, the prosecution offers one final clue to prove the pastor was a killer. >> it was something that mr. schirmer forgot being a typical male. coming up next friday on "dateline," a tale of love turned lethal. >> he was playing us both for quite some time. >> a thriller featuring an adoring wife, a pageant queen. >> beautiful, volume house is redhead, gorgeous woman. >> and juggling them both, a charismatic guitar hero. >> just charming. everybody loved him. >> two women, one man. a love triangle with sharp edges. >> jim told me that he wanted to know what it felt like to kill somebody. >> in this twisted game of hearts, how dangerous would it get? how many would pay the price? >> i looked in her eyes and i mean, she's evil. she is evil.
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gecko: don't look at me. don't look at me. ♪ ♪ ♪ reverend a.b. schirmer stood accused of a brutal crime. bludgeoning to death his second to cover his tracks. in his closing argument the prosecutor asked the juror to
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expose schirmer, the sinister minister. pastor's story. >> there was something mr. schirmer forgot being a typical male. >> look closely at the photos of the accident scene, the prosecutor said. his investigator had noticed something was missing. something betty would have with her. >> she's going to the hospital? what would she do? she gets dressed, grabs her purse and i stopped and i said, wait a minute. there's no purse. >> it was a crucial prop, the prosecutor argued that a.b. had forgotten to throw in the car when he staged the car accident. >> but the defense attorney in his final statement told the jurors there was no fake scene. he urged the jurors not to punish the reverend because of his self-confessed since.
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murder, he said, was not on that list. >> they needed to focus, if they were willing on the forensics and not be brought into the idea that he's a bad person and therefore he did a bad thing. now it would be up to a panel of strangers to decide the pastor's fate. >> while the jury deliberated, betty and jewel's children waited. a.b.'s stepson was convinced of his guilt. the evidence is just there and it's overwhelming. >> a.b.'s daughters were convinced of his innocence. they had laut their mother jewel, would they lose their father now? >> do you have self-pity? >> no, i don't have self-pity. god is good. he's walked us beside us through what's happened. >> >> i never know what the jury will do. >> your line of work? >> anything, yes. >> anything can happen? >> absolutely. >> after an hour and a half of deliberation, the jurors had
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reached a verdict. betty's family took their seats in the courtroom. >> we're all huddled together in the seats and we all had our heads down. >> then the verdict, guilty of first-degree murder. >> we immediately hugged, a few of us shouted out and started crying. >> for betty's family, the moment was bittersweet. fresh waves of grief for betty's loss and their brother-in-law a.b.'s betrayal. >> so he was a stranger to all of you. this was deceit right from the beginning you think now? >> yeah, i do. >> sitting at your thanksgiving tables and stopping by, seeing the grandchildren? it was all a front. >> i -- i think it was. >> sandy, what did a.b. schirmer do to your family? >> i think he physically broke our hearts and poor mom, you know, without a daughter. >> she really cared for that guy, and it has to turn out to
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be like this. >> on the other side othe courtroom a.b.'s daughters could not believe it. >> it was -- it was another tragedy to hear that. i just -- i'm still -- i was just so sad. just cried, devastated. i still hear it in my head replaying and -- >> the verdict. >> the verdict, and i don't agree with the decision. >> we know regardless of what any jury says he never hurt betty. >> how are you feeling right now? >> the pastor's fiance sind he no comment for reporters after the verdict. >> no reaction at all? >> she was still standing by her man. >> she still loves him. gives him $600 a month while he's been incarcerated. >> samantha says her relationship with her mother is strained. >> samantha, how do you conjure up a new mother-daughter
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relationship? >> i love her, it's plain and simple. she's family, you know? she can wrong me in every way possible, but at the end of the day she's still my mother. >> you love her? >> yeah. >> but the parent samantha is really living for these days is her late father. she says she dedicates every day to make him proud. >> everything i do is for him now, you know? i hope he's proud of me. >> in a sense of getting justice? >> yeah. going -- everything, going to school, being successful, anything i wanted to do he believed i could do it. ♪ ♪ >> samantha says she has found forgiveness for the man who could become her new stepdad, but betty's son nate knows he isn't there yet. >> i don't think i'll be able to say those words. >> who is this guy, nate? >> the sinister minister, presented himself as a pastor, pillar of the community, but we all know now there were
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skeletons in the closet and things going on behind the scenes. a.b. schirmer faces life in prison when he is sentenced next month. his defense attorney plans to appeal the verdict and argue, among other things, that the death of a.b.'s first wife jewel should never have been allowed to be a part of betty's trial. >> i think the admission of the first wife's circumstances surrounding the death of jewel shirm really did prejudice the case. >> what do you have to say to betty's family or yours. >> as the former pastor was being taken off to jail, the prosecutor says he told deputies he felt strangely calm. >> he couldn't understand why he felt so relaxed. i mean, i know why he felt so relaxed. he's been carrying this thing with him for many years, you know, these -- >> the truth will set you free. >> terrible secrets and he felt that relief. >> forgiveness is the providence of the church. justice is the duty of the state
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and there's another round to come. a.b. schirmer, the disgraced pastor is still expected to stand trial for the murder of his first wife jewel. his lawyer says he will plead not guilty later this month. that'sa you will for this edition of "dateline" friday. i'm lester holt. join us again for "dateline" sunday, 7:00, 6:00 central. next, stay tuned for "rock center" with brian williams at its new time. you'll see my report of the unbelievable emergency in the air and the hero pilot who saved the day. "rock center" starts right now. . ladies and gentlemen, this is the national broadcasting company. >> tonight on "roc .k center." get ready. >> people were crying, bracing for impact. >> get off this plane. >> a cat strofk failure in

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